Canadian singer and guitarist Terra Lightfoot turns in a set of songs incorporating timeless influences from above and below the border on her fourth studio album, Consider the Speed, set to drop later this month. For the album’s title track, Lightfoot recorded at Memphis’ hallowed Royal Studios with a group of session players who have lent their chops to tracks by artists like Buddy Guy, Kris Kristofferson, Keith Richards and more. Some of the great soul and blues records were recorded at Royal.
“Oh man, it was all vibe at Royal,” Lightfoot said. “Everything there has a rich history. I got used to all the beautiful little idiosyncrasies that have helped make so many records in that place. It’s guided by a no-bullshit approach to making music. We didn’t go to tape or anything, just into the board at Royal, then did some overdubs in Toronto. But my vocals were mostly sung into that beautiful #9 microphone that Al Green made all his hits with.”
Before she had the material for Consider the Speed, Lightfoot travelled to Nashville after a couple grueling years on the road, and she said it was just what she needed to find some songwriting inspiration. “I remember being creatively stuck one night,” she continued. “No songs were coming to me. So I went out for a drive and nearly ran into two horses in the middle of Franklin Pike, which is basically a mini-rural-highway in Nashville. Cars were speeding by them, this mother and this little foal, and nobody was stopping to help. Naturally, I got out and tried to corral them or figure out where they were from – basically, to do anything to keep them from running out into the road again.”
“Eventually they fled into the darkness and I lost track of them,” she said. “But seeing those horses really stirred something in me and got me right out of my head and out of that writer’s block. The beauty of them appearing in the night, seemingly only to me, on a busy highway … it almost felt like a sign, that I should stop taking everything so seriously, because what really mattered was right in front of me. A few days later, I finished about half of the songs for the record.”
The artists Lightfoot said she finds inspirational include an assortment jazz, rock, Americana and blues singers and players. “I love the richness in the voices of Nina Simone, Leon Russell, and Chet Baker. As a guitar player I love Freddie King, Bonnie Raitt, Junior Kimbrough, and Marc Bolan, and for songwriting I love John Prine. Emily Burgess is a fantastic up-and-coming Canadian guitarist, and I’m totally in love with Frazey Ford’s newest record!”
Not a lot of players use one almost exclusively, but Lightfoot’s signature guitar sound comes from her mainstay 1972 Gibson SG Standard, Veronica. “Oh yeah, that’s my main guitar,” Lightfoot said. “I’ve been playing that guitar since I was 17, and I’ve banged it up pretty badly, lost it and found it again countless times, even when I left it briefly in an alleyway in downtown Montreal. In some ways, it’s an extension of me, an integral part of my sound and a part of who I am. My fingers just seem to find all the right places when I play it, and it just feels good.”
“My aunt Theresa,” she continued, “who has spent most of her life gigging, just gave me her 1971 Telecaster as she doesn’t play much anymore. I played a couple different really beautiful Telecasters on the record that I borrowed from friends, so it’s sort of a happy coincidence that now I can get acquainted with my new Tele to start playing these songs live.”
An automatic assumption regarding Lightfoot is that she must be a relative of another Canadian musician, the legendary singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, who scored big on the American charts several decades ago with hits like “Sundown” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” But that would be wrong.
“We’ve played on the same stages on various occasions,” she said, “but not toured together. I vividly remember meeting him for the first time at Daniel Lanois’ Harvest Picnic about seven or eight years ago. He said, ‘Oh, you’re the other Lightfoot. So, are we related?’ The guy is a laugh a minute. Since then, I’ve done a few gigs with him here and there, most recently one where my parents got to meet him backstage, which I truly loved, it was a really special day. My poor dad has been getting confused for Gordon Lightfoot ever since I became a musician, so I think it meant the world to him to meet the man behind all those great songs.”